Ex-Diocese Voice Talks Leadership

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
October 28, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - More than a year after leaving the Archdiocese of Boston as its public face during the clergy sexual abuse crisis, former church spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey is still following church events and thinking that church leaders could be doing a better job at getting out their message.

Speaking to American International College students yesterday about public relations, Morrissey said the archdiocese could be doing a better job at communicating news regarding what she described as "the painful closing of parishes" in Greater Boston.

"Communication is crucial to any organization, and they could be doing a better job here," said Morrissey, who has been working for the past year as director of corporate affairs for the New England Region of the American Red Cross.

Asked by American International College student Peter J. Dillon of Springfield whether she would consider returning to work for the church, Morrissey replied affirmatively and expressed pride in the archdiocese's response to the crisis.

"I am proud of my work during the crisis," she said.

She cited the creation of a zero tolerance policy, the opening of a victims/survivors support and resource office and educational programs to teach about abuse.

While she said good public relations people help develop strategies for their organizations to "do the right thing," Morrissey said she joined the Boston church when she could do "too little, too late" regarding the crisis.

Morrissey said a year and a half of 16-hour days and the stress surrounding the crisis made her exit from the archdiocese a welcome relief.

"I was no longer sleeping and had lost a lot of weight," said Morrissey, who decided to leave when Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in December 2002.

"It was a new regime coming in, and I knew they were going to bring in a new team," Morrissey said.

Morrissey recalled Law asking her to soften her references to clergy sexual abuse.

"I told him I can't call sexual abuse anything but sexual abuse because that is what it is," Morrissey said.

Morrissey said she discovered common ground with clergy abuse victims. She said she and victims both were angry at church leaders for not stopping abusive behavior when there was evidence that it was taking place.

Morrissey told students her previous work as an assignment editor for a television station and other media work has helped her find interesting career choices.

"My advice is start reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching television. You need to know how the media works and to understand how reporters do their jobs to be effective in public relations," Morrissey said.


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